EAST WINDSOR, Conn. (WWLP) - Panhandlers are popping up everywhere, one frequent beggar is an elderly man. The 22News I-Team spoke to that man and reveals why it's so difficult to enforce panhandling laws.
Simply, Courts have said again and again, panhandling is a protected 1st amendment right. Some towns do have solicitation ordinances, but they can't stop the act of panhandling itself.
22News found 80 year old Robert Boyce of Chicopee panhandling in East Windsor, Connecticut.
(How you doing?)
"Pretty good, yourself?" said Boyce.
Two weeks ago, Ludlow police gave Boyce a criminal summons to appear in court for violating town by-laws. Boyce is accused of stepping into traffic to collect money and misleading police by saying he was homeless when he wasn't. Not for actually asking for money.
"I feel bad for them, I sometimes give them money, but I don't like seeing them on a corner, nobody does you know," said Daniel Gingras wh was visiting from Port Orange, Florida.
Enfield, Connecticut tried to make panhandlers and other roadside solicitors get a permit, but ran into a legal roadblock.
"They were enacted,but we never actually enforced them, because appellate courts came out with rulings that panhandling is a protected first amendment right," said Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza.
Many towns try to enact or enforce similar ordinances, but at the end of the day courts just find them unconstitutional.
While panhandlers can express their 1st amendment rights, so can we, on a public sidewalk where we introduced ourselves to Boyce.
(You have been the topic of conversation around here for the past two weeks. My name is Ryan. People want to know why you're out here, why you're doing this, do you need the money?)
"Yes, of course," said Boyce. He continues, "This isn't going to be on the news is it?
"I don't want it," said Boyce.
We left him alone after that.
Ludlow police say Boyce lives in Chicopee and is dropped off by a woman he lives with. It's unclear if Boyce is being forced to panhandle.
Enfield is in the process of crafting another ordinance that wouldn't stop panhandling but dictate where panhandlers would be able to setup shop. The basis would be that some panhandlers were interfering with public safety. A public hearing could be held on that ordinance in Ludlow later this summer or in the fall.
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